[Ads-l] Jumbo (Size/Quantity)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Nov 24 19:02:01 UTC 2020

I wonder if Vachel Lindsay's notorious poem may have been a vector here:

"Be careful what you do,
Or Mumbo-jumbo', God of the Congo,
And all of the other
Gods of the Congo,
Mumbo-jumbo will hoo-doo you,
Mumbo-jumbo will hoo-doo you,
Mumbo-jumbo will hoo-doo you."

>From "The Congo" (
http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/poetry/poems/the_congo.html), his racist
and/or anti-racist (there is that couplet, "Listen to the yell of Leopold
<http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/poetry/poems/leopold.html>'s ghost/Burning
in hell for his hand-maimed host) poem.


On Tue, Nov 24, 2020 at 1:49 PM Z Rice <zrice3714 at gmail.com> wrote:

> I noticed some time ago that the word jumbo 'numerous in quantity,
> enormous' is erroneously attributed to an elephant and Barnum and Bailey in
> several western dictionaries.
> The elephant origin theory does not seem to explain the use of the term in
> daily speech - in which jumbo also refers to something quite tiny, but
> numerous in quantity (i.e., a jumbo Skittles).
> Instead, the Kikongo zumbe 'enormous, numerous in quantity' would be a more
> appropriate, and historically sensible explanation for the word jumbo
> 'enormous, numerous in quantity' in the United States.
> The Oxford dictionary claims that jumbo (enormous, numerous in quantity) is
> 'probably the second element of "mumbo jumbo"', defining mumbo jumbo as
> "language or ritual causing or intended to cause confusion or
> bewilderment".
> How jumbo 'enormous, numerous in quantity' would derive from such a meaning
> is not explained.
> Regards,
> Zola Sohna
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list